Wondering if I’m using dubious substances while writing this? That’s understandable from the title, the answer’s “no”, just stay with me, all will become clear, I promise.
Looking at this post’s header image, it’s likely you can see a fish. It’s also likely you recognise the fish to be a rainbow trout. (If not, take a closer look at the photo, see it now? Great, you just learned something!)
Now ask yourself why you see that fish? Very often the answer is, you see a fish because you are looking for a fish. This is classic “Prey Image Theory“, we know what the thing we are looking for looks like, so we look for that image. This is one of the key reasons why you miss seeing so many fish when looking into clear water!
Take this everyday life example that clearly shows the error.
The story starts with me walking into the kitchen to make a drink. As I move towards our fridge, Andrea (my wife), casually mentions she made a black cherry jelly for fun earlier, its setting in the fridge. As I open the fridge door and look in, I grab the milk and look for the jelly, (see image above). I finish making my drink and do the typical husband thing, “hey Andrea, I don’t see that jelly in the fridge, where did you put it?” the response is the time honoured wife to dumb husband response, (Andrea walks briskly into kitchen, opens fridge door) “there, in the cups!”.
At this point we depart from the typical husband wife storyline, I experience a massive “light bulb” moment and we both burst into fits of laughter at me failing prey image theory, big time.
You see, in the fridge contents photo, what I saw, 4 nice cups that contained the delicious jelly. Once I knew the jelly was in cups, I saw jelly, before that, I saw cups, not jelly. The question is why?
The answer is because when I think of jelly, I think of a bowl of jelly! That’s how my mum and my nans’ all made jelly and how we often do too. So my prey image is a jelly bowl. I completely missed the jelly because I looked for a large jelly bowl and saw cups, among everything else. As soon as Andrea updated my prey image with information that she made the jelly in cups, I got it immediately.
What the heck does this have to do with fly fishing?
Well whenever you go looking for fish with an image of that species held consciously/subconsciously in your head, you make that same error again and again and again.
In fact you make that error continuously and will do forever, or you do something about it and correct the error!
How? Stop looking for a fish! Instead, look for signs. If you look, you will see. Just like Derek.